Saturday, September 20, 2014

Broadway & 37th Street on the Mitzvah Tank

Broadway and 37th street in Manhattan is in the heart of the garment district, and the tank parks there every thursday afternoon. On my previous is it on Tuesday, the rabbi suggested I stop by to meet some interesting people. I was not disappointed. There was a constant stream of regulars who work in the area and stopped in to put on t'filin and schmooze with the rabbi. The two gentlemen who worked the street outside the tank, asking passers-by if they were Jewish, discovered two men who said they had never worn t'filin (at least not since their bar mitzvah fifty or city years previously). Women stopped in also, just to listen to the sound of the shofar. At 3pm a group gathered for the afternoon prayer, and afterwards for the reading of the Torah portion for the day. And once again I was granted the mitzvah fulfilling the Levi aliya. It was a very fulfilling day, and I got quite a few pictures to boot.

Some women stopped in to listen to the shofar:

 Regulars stopped by just to say hello, give some tzedakah, and put on t'filin:

A group of young yeshiva students were visiting the area, bought some kosher pizza, and said hello to the rabbi:

 And we read the torah portion for the day:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mitzvah Tank on 47th Street

On Tuesday afternoon I spent a few hours with the good people of the Mitzvah Tank that  is found at various locations in Manhattan during the week. The 'tank', operated by Rabbi Levi Baumgarten, is an outreach facility of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidim based in Grown Heights, Brooklyn. The 'tank' offers a facility for Jews to participate in a short afternoon prayer service ( Mincha), put on t'filin, and at this time of year - for a month before the Rosh Hashana holiday - to hear the sound of the shofar. Usually one or more of the people with the 'tank' stand outside and ask passers-by if they are Jewish. If not, they are honored with a 'God bless you, have a good day'. If they are, however, the mitzvah-tanker will invite them (if it's a man) to put on t'filin and/or (it it's a woman) to listen to the shofar.

I love to photograph the action inside the 'tank' and out on the street. On Tuesday the tank started out on 42nd Street and Madison Ave. and then moved to the 47th Street diamond district. Tomorrow I'm hoping to spend the afternoon on the 'tank' in the garment district (on 37th Street).

Here's some pics of the action on Tuesday:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

More Again From Crown Heights III

This Sunday is an important day for Jews. In New York and Berlin rallies will be occurring to bring attention to the growth of antisemitism in our current state of affairs.

When I was a young boy my family belonged to a synagogue in Newark, NJ. Temple B'nai Abraham was a landmark institution with a very prominent rabbi, Joachim Prinz. Dr. Prinz was the chief rabbi of Berlin in the 1930's but escaped the Nazi debacle. He was an extremely charismatic personality, and was part of Dr. Martin Luther King's historic presentation in Washington, DC, He was given the honor to say some words to the mass of marchers just before Dr. King gave his landmark speech.

Dr. Prinz's speech in its entirety can be read here. But a few sentences stand out as apropos for our time:

'When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.'

So, tomorrow as we march at 12 Noon from Columbus Circle to Sixth Avenue for the 1pm rally, we will not be silent. Here's the Facebook link

Here's more from Crown Heights.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Afternoon in Crown Heights Part II

Sunday was the first time, since beginning my exploration of the neighborhood, that I sat in one of the eateries to have a bite (I'm on kind of a diet, y'know?). Here's more as a continuation from the previous blog post.

Monday, September 8, 2014

An Afternoon in Crown Heights

This past Sunday I spent a few hours in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to gather material for a long term project on which I've been working. I've also visited Williamsburg to collect similar images, where I've encountered a bit of hostility. Not so in Crown Heights. The people couldn't have been more friendly. Generally the afternoon Mincha service begins at this time of year at about 3:15pm with some singing just prior to it. I arrived at the synagogue at about 2:45 to find that many of the people from the neighborhood had gathered outside to await a funeral procession. To be able to experience that ritual was an added bonus to the whole experience of the day.

Waiting outside for the funeral:

Inside the synagogue just before the Mincha service:

The beginning of the service:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Midtown Walk

I"ve been working intensely on some writing for the past two weeks. Of all the creative things I've done, writing is the hardest, requires the most intense concentration, and is the most frustrating. So, as with anything else, when I need a break I pick up my camera and go for a walk in Manhattan. Even though it's September, it's still summer in the city.

Monday, August 25, 2014

On Board The Mitzvah Tank

When the Mitzvah Tank bus is parked at the corner of 57th street and Fifth avenue, one or two of the people from the Tank stand outside and query passerbys if they are Jewish. Used to be when I couldn't be bothered with them I'd say 'No', and continue on my way. Not so anymore. If anyone answers 'Yes', they're then asked if they had put on Tfilin yet, and invited into the bus to partake of the 'mitzvah' (blessing) of doing the ritual. When I saw the bus this past week I stayed and celebrated the daily afternoon prayer 'mincha' which takes about ten minutes to go through. There's a wonderful feeling of community afterwards. And a chance to get some interesting shots.

The light was not great, dark on the bus, and bright sunlight outside, and I was too lazy to change lenses to my fast 14mm f2.8 lens. This next Wednesday I'll plan better. It's the first day of the Jewish month of Elul, and in preparation for the coming of the new year Rosh Hashana, the shofar is sounded every day. More on that after Wednesday.